Intel Committee Ranking Member Schiff Statement on Incidental Collection
Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement:
“The documents I reviewed at the White House last Friday will soon be available to the full House and Senate Intelligence Committees. This action is long overdue and follows an inexplicable series of events in which the White House played a role in selectively and surreptitiously providing the documents to our Chairman. If the White House had any concerns over these documents, or any other documents, they should have provided them to our committee weeks ago. Additionally, the White House has yet to explain why it attempted to conceal its role in the compilation of these materials. The White House is not a whistleblower and nothing that I was shown justifies such duplicitous conduct.
“I cannot comment on the content of these materials or any other classified documents, and nothing should be inferred from the fact that I am treating classified materials the way they should be treated – by refusing to comment on them. Only the Administration has the power to declassify the information and make it available to the public.
“With respect to the issue of incidental collection, it is important for people to understand some basic facts:
“First, whenever we are doing lawful surveillance for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence and the targets even mention U.S. persons or businesses, that can be considered "incidental collection." Of course, incidental collection can also occur when a foreign party we are lawfully collecting on calls or writes to a U.S. person. Some incidental collection is unavoidable, and as long as proper procedures are being followed, it is fully lawful. It does not constitute either wiretapping or surveillance of Americans.
“Second, when that incidental collection is included in an intelligence report, the names of the U.S. persons are masked. It may be possible, at times, to guess who the identities are even though they are masked. This, too, is neither uncommon nor improper. When it is necessary to unmask a name to understand the significance of the communication, there is a process for doing so, which is also lawful. Our committee routinely reviews whether our intelligence agencies are properly masking names and unmasking them as appropriate.
“Finally, in mid-March the Chairman and I asked the agencies to share with our committee the procedures it was following on incidental collection and to provide us with relevant documents. We have been receiving documents pursuant to that request, and we will be reviewing those documents to determine compliance with appropriate procedures.”